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With: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney, Martin Balsam, John McGiver
Written by: George Axelrod, based on the novel by Truman Capote
Directed by: Blake Edwards
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 114
Date: 10/05/1961
IMDB

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Moon River' Swoon

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Breakfast at Tiffany's will live on as long as there are lovers to watch it. Screenwriter George Axelrod (The Manchurian Candidate) and director Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther) re-tooled Truman Capote's novel just a bit to make it more suitable to their star, the luminous Audrey Hepburn. She plays Holly Golightly, a spirited, flighty, New York girl with an apparently thick skin, able to dash off before any long-term emotional attachments take root. She meets writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard) -- whom she calls "Fred" because he reminds her of her brother -- living in an adjacent apartment. The movie tones this down, but Paul is a "kept" boy, providing "favors" for an older rich lady (Patricia Neal) in exchange for rent money.

The bulk of the movie shows Holly doing what Holly does, throwing parties, allowing men to fall in love with her, and generally indulging in whatever feels best. She has her own peculiar turns of phrase, such as "the mean reds." And she refuses to name her cat (she calls him "Cat") because that would indicate ownership and attachment. All the while, Paul watches her with a faint smile, falling more and more deeply in love with this untamable creature. Of course, there's a twist: Holly's past, which comes in the form of an estranged husband (Buddy Ebsen), and with him the movie's melancholy mood. Edwards is a champ at mixing the lighthearted with the heartbreaking, no more so than in the famed "Moon River" scene. While Hepburn's singing voice would be dubbed three years later for the overrated My Fair Lady, here Edwards lets her sing, and her untrained voice reveals an honest beauty that no amount of coaching could ever capture.

But there's trouble in paradise, and it grows ever more painful to watch Mickey Rooney's portrayal as the Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, with the bogus buck teeth and horrifying accent ("Missa Go-Right-rey!"). I suppose Rooney shouldn't saddle all the blame, but this is a caricature that should have been left on the Vaudeville stages of a century ago. Even by 1961, the filmmakers should have felt shame in their depiction. Hepburn, on the other hand, received a much-deserved Oscar nomination for her lovely performance. With it, she forever left behind her innocent, princess-like image and stepped into a new age of harsher edges. Actually, she might have made a fitting subject for another Capote book, had the author himself not burned out at around the same time.

DVD Details: Paramount's 2009 two-disc DVD re-issue -- part of Paramount's Centennial Collection -- comes with a commentary track by producer Richard Shepard (not to be confused with the director of The Matador), whose other credits include Robin and Marian (1976) and The Hunger (1983). Some of the featurettes were already released on the 2006 disc, but this new set comes with quite a few more, including one on composer Henry Mancini, and one on the controversial Rooney character. There's also a trailers and still galleries.

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